Coronavirus (COVID-19) business support: equality impact assessments

Detailed equality impact assessments (EQIAs) for the COVID-19 business support funding issued between March 2020 and April 2021.

Business Contingency Plus Fund

Name of Grant:

Business Contingency Plus Fund

Policy Lead

Andrew Baird

Legal power used:

Section 126 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.

Grant Overview:

The Business Contingency Fund was established by the Scottish Government in October 2020 as a mechanism for directing financial support to businesses in sectors experiencing particularly acute financial challenges as a result of Covid-19. The second phase of the Business Contingency Fund, known as the Contingency Fund Plus, was administered by local authorities and directed towards Travel Agents, Indoor Football Centres and Brewers all of which were identified as experiencing particular financial challenges as a result of Covid-19.

Crucially, the objective of this fund was to support businesses in remaining financially viable for the period restrictions were in place and was not intended to replace lost income or to cover operating losses incurred. Travel Agents and Indoor Football Centres were eligible for a one-off grant of up to £25,000 depending on their Rateable Value. Brewers were eligible for a grant of up to £30,000 depending on their Rateable Value and annual production levels.

Executive Summary:

The extraordinary measures taken by the Scottish Government to protect the right to life and right to health for the people of Scotland throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have placed unprecedented pressures on Scotland’s economy and business community. Health protection regulations required certain businesses to close or placed specific restrictions on their operations at different times between March 2020 and August 2021. Many others were impacted by significant reductions in demand due to these restrictions or as a result of the introduction of domestic and/or international travel restrictions.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has spent £4.3 billion in providing direct financial support to those businesses impacted by Covid-19 restrictions and regulation. As the impacts of restrictions were felt differently across the business community, varying according to factors such as sector and location, a range of different funding streams were developed to target financial support towards specific sectors or types of business based on the challenges they were experiencing as a result of the pandemic. Given the unprecedented challenges presented by Covid-19 it was necessary to develop financial support schemes at pace to ensure that funds were distributed rapidly in the interests of preventing business closures and preserving jobs. The Contingency Plus Fund was no exception to this although, as with other funds, we have maintained a commitment to review the delivery of these funds and to update policy where necessary.

The variable impact of the pandemic on different demographic groups in Scotland and the inequalities created by this are well understood. Throughout the pandemic the Scottish Government has taken measures to mitigate these inequalities where possible. In line with its responsibilities under the Public Sector Equality Duty, as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010. In developing the Contingency Plus Fund and other similar funds, the Scottish Government has considered how it can eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. In doing so, the Scottish Government drew on a wide range of sources to understand the impact of restrictions on those with protected characteristics including statistics published by both the Scottish Government and the Office of National Statistics as well as insights from the Annual Population Survey, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy’s Longitudinal Small Business Survey as well as from organisations such as Close the Gap and the Social Metric Commission.

Every effort is made to ensure that Equality Impact Assessments (EQIA) are published timeously. However, the speed at which it has been necessary to ensure mechanisms are in place for supporting businesses impacted by Covid-19 restrictions has resulted in delays to completing EQIAs for a number of business support funds.

Key Findings - impact assessment of benefits and/or disadvantages.

Advancing Equality

By distributing financial support through the Contingency Plus Fund the Scottish Government acted to mitigate the impact of the regulations on Travel Agents, Indoor Football Centres and Brewers, to support them in remaining financially viable while restrictions were in place which required them to remain restricted or closed. In doing so, this assessment shows that the Contingency Plus Fund acted to advance equalities by protecting businesses in sectors that impact on the lives of those with protected characteristics disproportionately. Alongside the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the Contingency Plus Fund protects and preserves jobs in sectors which employ a disproportionately high number of people from among groups with protected characteristics particularly young people and women. Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that women and young people have a significantly higher likelihood of working within Travel Agents and Indoor Football Centres in particular, in comparison to other sectors of the economy. Financial support distributed through the Contingency Plus Fund also targeted those sectors which have instances of insecure employment and low pay and are least resilient to financial shocks.

Eliminating Discrimination

Statistics have indicated that the Brewing industry is a highly male dominated sector. This industry also received a higher award of funding via the Business Contingency Plus fund. This therefore places women at a disadvantage due to the eligibility criteria of the Business Contingency Plus Fund.

Steps have been taken to mitigate this by providing further support for Travel Agents and Indoor Football Centres in the form of additional funding through the Strategic Framework Business Fund and Restart Grants.

Fostering good relations

The Contingency Plus Fund provides support to Indoor Football Centres, which are important spaces for social and community interaction providing an opportunity for engagement across and between groups with protected characteristics and helping to foster good relations between these groups. Indoor Football Centres are shared spaces promoting interaction between several different groups with protected characteristics in the supported sectors especially young people and women and minority ethnic groups. By sharing workplaces this promotes close interaction and engagement between these groups including those with intersecting protected characteristics. In providing financial support to businesses in these sectors to remain financially viable through the restrictions, the Scottish Government is therefore acting to foster good relations between groups with protected characteristics.

Age: Older People and Children and Young People

The 2017 ONS Annual Population Survey gives statistics which showcase how this fund may disadvantage older persons based upon the age range of those employed as Travel Agents and Sport and Leisure assistants. The data shows the following

  • Travel Agents - Approximately 16% of employees working in Travel Agents were aged between 16 - 24 compared to an average of 12.3% across all other sectors.
  • Sport and Leisure Assistants - 58% of employees working as Sport and Leisure assistants are aged between 16 – 24. This shows that employment as a sport and leisure assistant is a field dominated by young people when compared to the average of 12.3% across other sectors.

It can be seen from the survey that these businesses, particularly Travel Agents and Indoor Football Centres employ a significant proportion of young people. The employment of younger people employed in these sectors will result in a disadvantage to older persons as a result of the eligibility criteria for this fund. This is due to the above average rate of employment for those aged between 16-24.

Furthermore the ONS 2017 Annual Population Survey provided statistical data on the age ranges of people employed who aged 55 or over. This data showcased how young people may be disadvantaged by the eligibility criteria for this fund.

  • Brewers - Approximately 22% of people involved in the manufacturing of beer were aged 55 or older. This is higher than the average of 19% across other sectors.
  • Travel Agents - Travel agents also had a significant proportion of their workforce in the 55+ age range at approximately 18%. This is 1% lower than the average across all other sectors. Approximately 26% of Travel Agency managers and proprietors identified were aged 55. This is particularly high compared to an average of approximately 19% across all other sectors.

The statistics above show that by employing slightly higher levels of persons aged 55+, providing funding to these sectors may cause disadvantages to younger persons as a result of the Contingency Plus Fund’s eligibility criteria as it would be providing funding to a business employing a disproportionate amount of older persons.

The long term ‘scarring’ impacts of the pandemic on the career prospects of young people have also been highlighted by organisations such as the Institute for Fiscal (IFS) and the Social Metrics Commission the latter of which has shown that young people (18 -24) are 7% more likely to experience a negative labour market outcome as a result of Covid-19 that those aged 25 – 44.

Sex: Men and Women

An assessment of the restrictions introduced through the Strategic Framework similarly shows that, like young and older people, these also had a disproportionate impact on people based on sex primarily driven by two factors, high numbers of women-led businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors as well as a clustering of female employment within these sectors.

2019 data from the ONS that showed which professions were most likely to be impact by Covid-19 also showed the following data related to the employment of women which highlighted possible disadvantages suffered by men:

  • Travel Agents - 80% of employees working as Travel Agents were women compared to an average of 48.8% across all sectors. Furthermore 64% of Travel Agency managers and proprietors identified as female.

From the above data we can see here that as a result of a significantly higher proportion of females being employed as Travel Agents that men will suffer a disadvantage as a result of the eligibility criteria for the Business Contingency Plus Fund.

Further data from the 2019 study and the 2017 ONS annual population survey also highlighted a disadvantage faced by women as a result of the fund’s eligibility criteria.

  • Sports and Leisure Assistants - 45% of employees working as Sport and Leisure Assistants are women. Compared to the 48.8% average across all sectors.
  • Brewing - The manufacture of beer is an overwhelmingly male dominated industry – Approximately only 23% of people involved in manufacturing beer are women.

From the above data we can see that women may also be disadvantaged as a result of the eligibility criteria for the Business Contingency Plus Fund as a result of having disproportionately low employment as Sport and Leisure assistants and in the Brewing industry.

Additionally the Brewing industry, a male-dominated sector was eligible for a higher funding award associated with the costs involved in brewing which would also result in disadvantages suffered by women.


Data from the ONS, highlighting which occupations have higher COVID exposure rates, also give statistics for the makeup of Travel Agents and Sport and Leisure Assistants who come from an ethnic minority background:

  • Travel Agents – 9% of those employed as Travel Agents are identified as coming from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background, furthermore approximately 17% of Travel Agency managers and proprietors were from Minority Ethnic Backgrounds compared to a labour market share of 4%.
  • Sports and Leisure assistants – 5% of those employed as Sports and Leisure assistants were identified as coming from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background compared to an overall labour market share of 4%.

The Contingency Fund Plus provided much needed support to a sector that has had some of the strictest restrictions placed on it in order to prevent the spread of COVID. These sectors are demonstrated to employ a small but significant number of people from minority ethnic backgrounds.


Specific data on business ownership and employment by sector is not available to fully assess the impact of the Contingency Plus Fund on those with a disability.

Religion and Belief

No Discernible Impact

Sexual Orientation

No Discernible Impact

Pregnancy and maternity

No Discernible Impact

Gender reassignment

No Discernible Impact

Marriage or Civil Partnership

No Discernible Impact

Socio-economic disadvantage: any people experiencing poverty

Data from the ONS highlighting the higher risk exposure to COVID faced by employees in certain professions also provided statistics relating to the average pay of those workers. It highlighted that Travel Agents and Sport and Leisure Assistants were not considered to be low paid occupations.

  • Travel Agents – The average hourly wage of a person employed by Travel Agents was £9.91. Furthermore Managers and Proprietors of Travel Agents had an average hourly wage of £14.18 which is slightly above the median hourly wage of £13.27.
  • Sport and Leisure Assistants – The data indicates that the average hourly wage of a Sport and Leisure assistant is £9.24. This is just slightly over two thirds of the median hourly wage.

As part of a 2020 study on Low and High pay in the UK, ONS defined a low pay job as being below £9.12 – less than two thirds of the median hourly wage.

From this data we can see that persons employed in these businesses do not typically fall into what the ONS defines as low income jobs, based upon average hourly wages. Travel Agents in particular have a higher than average wage. Therefore, by focusing support from this fund on sectors with average, or slightly above average, hourly income there is knock-on effect of people in low income jobs not being assisted by this particular fund. As a result people from a low Socio-Economic background may face a disadvantage from the fund’s eligibility criteria.

Stakeholder Engagement:

We have engaged extensively with businesses and their representative organisations during the pandemic. In the year to March 202, the Scottish Government had more than 1,270 ministerial engagements with business, including virtual conferences, roundtables and calls.

Engagement with business leaders included regular communication with HMRC, CBI, FSB, IoD, SCC, SCDI, SFE, STUC, Scottish Retail Consortium, Scottish Tourism Alliance and Scotland Food and Drink etc.

This provided an opportunity to listen to stakeholder views, test ideas, share information about progress and discuss and address specific issues identified by sectors and individual businesses.

Mitigations –


Next Steps (if any)


Declaration and Publication

I have read the Equality Impact Assessment and I am satisfied that it represents a fair and reasonable view of the expected equality impact of the measures implemented.


Date: 19/11/2021



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